Sale should provide biggest boost to new-look Sox

With Ortiz out of lineup, ace steps into rotation

Sale should provide biggest boost to new-look Sox

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Red Sox squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?

BOSTON -- Boston lost some legendary thunder at the plate in David Ortiz, but the club plans to make up for it with the addition of elite left-hander Chris Sale.

When pitchers and catchers have their first workout in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 14, all eyes will be on the new ace, who was acquired in a December blockbuster from the White Sox. The first full-squad workout is on Feb. 17. Sale will be easy to spot around the Fenway South facility, roaming the complex with his lanky 6-foot-6, 180 pound frame.

Sale's early bullpen sessions in camp will be an event. The first time he throws batting practice to Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts, fans will be pressed up against the chain-link fence for an up-close view.

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After winning 93 games last year and the American League East title, the Red Sox will come into this season with some additional swagger thanks to their new front-line pitcher.

How has each MLB club changed for 2017?

For Sale joins a rotation that already includes two pitchers who have won AL Cy Young Awards in Rick Porcello and David Price. Not only does Sale bring his projected innings of greatness, but he takes some of the burden off Porcello and Price.

Boston rotation full of aces

In an ordinary year, Porcello would be besieged with questions about trying to live up to his breakout 2016 season. But much of the media's focus will be centered on Sale.

And Price, who got all the attention last spring, will now be a little bit more under the radar thanks to the addition of Sale. Even in what was considered a down year by Price's standards, he still won 17 games, logged an AL-high 230 innings and notched 228 strikeouts. Everyone should be lucky to have a down year like that.

"It helps out everybody just to be able to add a guy of his caliber," said Price. "It's more than just the pitching staff or the starting rotation or the bullpen. It makes everybody feel a little bit more at ease."

In Sale, Boston gained a five-time All-Star who hasn't won a Cy Young Award yet, but who has been in the top five in voting the past four seasons.

Not only is Sale smack in the middle of his prime at the age of 27, but he has the excitement of playing for a true World Series contender for the first time in his career.

"Obviously, it comes with great expectations, and rightfully so," Sale said. "The Boston fans have every reason to think highly of this organization and of this team. As much as we want to do it for us, we want to do it for them, too."

And when the Fenway fans get a chance to observe Sale up close, they are going to love what they see. The view will look even better from the home dugout.

Sale on passionate Red Sox fans

"I played against him for six years in the [AL] Central and every time he pitched against us, it was a shutdown, and we had a good offense in Detroit too," said Porcello. "It was like, 'This guy is the real deal.' It doesn't matter who he's pitching against, he's going to go out there and flat out dominate. That's everything I've seen from him, and to be able to have that now in Boston on our staff, I'm looking forward to watching him."

Last year's Red Sox were led by the offense. That is a formula that can work in the regular season, but usually not in October, as was evidenced when Boston was swept by Cleveland in a three-game AL Division Series.

The 2017 Red Sox plan on setting the tone from the mound, and they hope is that the formula leads them to another deep run in the postseason.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.